Category Archive: Bible – NT – 1 Peter
In 1 Peter 2, Peter quotes Psalm 118 about the Stone the builders rejected becoming the cornerstone. He contrasts these builders with his own audience: “They stumble, being disobedient to the word … but you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people….”
Who are these builders? Commentary after commentary tells me something like this:
One can see in the NT use of the stone passage a broadening in the identification of the rejecters. In the Gospels and Acts (Matt. 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11), the rejecters are the leaders of first-century Jerusalem, and the stone is identified as Jesus. In Rom. 9:32-33, where Paul conflates Isa. 8:14 and 28:16, those who reject Christ the cornerstone are the people of Israel as a nation. Here in 1 Pet. 2:8, the rejecters are any and all people, whether Jew or Gentile, who reject Christ” (Karen Jobes, 1 Peter, 154).
In Beare’s words, Peter is speaking now of “all human destiny and … all endeavour,” and “‘The builders’ now is taken to mean all who attempt to build human society or their own lives” (cited in Jobes 154). Goppelt speaks of building “a future” (cited in Jobes 155).
But what was the building project in Psalm 118 and in the citations in the Gospels? What building project is in view in 1 Peter 2, for that matter? Surely it’s the building of the Temple, not of “a future” or of “human society” or of people’s “own lives.” Peter speaks of his audience as being “built” into a “spiritual house,” and then immediately talks about them as priests offering spiritual sacrifices.
In the Gospels, Jesus cites this Psalm in his confrontation of the Jewish leaders in the Temple on the great day of controversy that ends with Jesus leaving the Temple and declaring that it will be leveled to the ground, with not one stone standing upon another. The temple’s leaders — the builders (who were at that time literally engaged in a building project) — had rejected the Cornerstone and therefore their building would not remain standing.
The builders, then, are not “any and all people, whether Jew or Gentile, who reject Christ.” What Peter says about them and their stumbling and destruction may apply more broadly to other unbelievers, including pagan ones, but Peter is not speaking about unbelievers in general.
Rather, the builders are specifically those who are endeavoring to build the Temple, to build God’s house, without Christ the Cornerstone. In 1 Peter 2, it seems to me, we should take the builders to be unbelieving Israel, rejecting Jesus and persecuting the church (or stirring up such persecution, as we see throughout Acts). But Peter’s readers, scattered as they are (1:1) due to the attacks of “Babylon” (5:13), are the heirs of all the titles and privileges of Old Covenant Israel (2:9-10). They are the temple, being built by God with Jesus as the Cornerstone.
The builders may continue with their Temple project, but they stumble and will, together with their temple, be destroyed. But the “spiritual house” made of “living stones,” built on and united to Jesus the “Living Stone,” will stand.
In her essay on “The Psalms in 1 Peter” (in The Psalms in the New Testament, ed. Steve Moyise & Maarten J. J. Menken [London: T&T Clark, 2004): 213-229), Sue Woan draws attention to the frequent allusions to Psalm 34 throughout this epistle. The quotation in 3:10-12 is obvious, but the references to “evil” (kakou) and “deceit” (dolon) in 2:1 likely come from Ps 34:12 (“Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit”), and 2:3’s “you tasted that the Lord is good” derives from Ps 34:9 (“Taste and see that the LORD is good”).
What is particularly interesting is that the words and themes that appear in the quotation from Psalm 34 in 1 Peter 3:10-12 show up earlier in the letter in the same order:
1:3 – living hope (elpida zosan) & 3:10 – life (zoen)
1:8 – have seen (idontes) & 3:10 – to see (idein).
2:1 – evil (kakian) and deceit (dolon) & 3:10 – evil (kakou) and deceit (dolon).
2:12,14 – evildoers (kakopoion) & 3:11 – evil (kakou).
2:20 – doing good (agathopoiountes) & 3:11 – do good (poiesato agathon).
2:22 – righteously(dikaios) & 3:12 – righteous (dikaious).
3:9 – evil for evil (kakon auti kakou) & 3:12 – evil (kaka) (223-224).
What’s missing in this parallel? The quotation of Psalm 34 in 1 Peter 3:10-12 includes “Let them seek peace and pursue it,” and there’s no verbal parallel in 1 Peter. But, says Woan, what we do find as we follow these parallels in sequence is that the section that we’d expect to parallel this part of the Psalm 34 quotation is 2:11-20, “about pursuing a deliberate lifestyle of turning away from evil and from any activities not commensurate with their new status in Christ.”
We seek peace and pursue it, then, by abstaining from fleshly lusts that war against our soul. As we put off these lusts and abstain from them, they are not able to war against us, and the result is peace. Woan herself makes this point: “Such activities are described in 2:1 as ‘waging war’; the implication being that renouncing them is equivalent to ‘seeking peace'” (224).
But we can go further. Peter urges us to abstain from these lusts and to do good with a goal in mind. Woan’s parallels help us see that we are to seek and pursue peace in society as well, by doing good works so that even (perhaps once hostile) Gentiles may observe them and be drawn to join the church in glorifying God.
Woan also shows how the Psalm 34 quotation in 3:10-12 looks forward to what Peter says in 3:13-17, again with common words in order, but this time in reverse (chiastic) order:
A 3:11 – evil (kakou).
B 3:11 – doing good (poiesato agathon).
C 3:12 – righteous (dikaious).
D 3:12 – evil (kaka).
D’ 3:13 – evil (kakoson).
C’ 3:14 – righteousness (dikaiosunen).
B’ 3:17 – doing good (agathopoiountas).
A’ 3:17– doing evil (kakopoiountas).
Once again, there’s something in the Psalm quotation that doesn’t have an explicit verbal parallel in 1 Peter 3:13-17, namely the opening of the quotation: “He who wants to love life and to see good days…” (3:10). But, Woan says, there is a thematic parallel in 4:7 (“the end of all things is as hand”) and especially in 4:13 (“referring,” says Woan, “to the time when followers will be glad and shout for joy when Christ’s glory is revealed”) and 5:1, 4, 6, which “each focus on the ‘good days’ which are to come for those who are faithful” (225).
Certainly there isn’t a section of the text that one could say is clearly chiastically parallel to 3:10. Nevertheless, Woan is correct to see general parallels between the “good days” and the “life” of which Psalm 34 speaks and the glory Peter says is going to be revealed, the exaltation that is coming in due time for those who humble themselves under God’s hand.
In fact, we can go beyond what Woan herself says. Immediately after 3:14-17 (which Woan says is verbally chiastically parallel to 3:11-12), we have a passage about Jesus’ suffering and death, followed by new life (3:18: “made alive by the Spirit”), which leads into Peter’s application to his audience (e.g., 4:1-2: suffering in the flesh, like Christ, leads one to “live the rest of his time in the flesh” in a new way; 4:6: “those who are dead” may “live according to God in the Spirit”). So, as in 3:10, there is an emphasis here on life, the new life that Jesus has and in which his people share.
If you love life, then, you adopt the pattern of Psalm 34 (1 Pet 3:10-12), which is also the pattern of Christ (as the parallels between 3:10-12 and the first half of the epistle indicate). You abstain from evil and deceit; instead you do good. And the result is that, like Christ and in union with him, you also suffer in the flesh — but the result is life, a life which is “good days,” exaltation, glory, and rejoicing.
Benne Holwerda, commenting on the phrase in 1 Peter 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy, rebegot us…”:
When we think of mercy, we think of “compassion.” Mercy we show to the sick and destitute and needy. And the biblical word undeniably does have that element. But it is also much more.
If a beggar comes to your door, then you can give that man something, but you can also leave him alone. In other words, he never knows beforehand whether he will receive anything. You do not have the obligation to sacrifice, and therefore such a person’s existence is absolutely uncertain: he never knows what he can count on.
And there lies the difference between the biblical word and its present-day meaning. In the Bible, too, mercy has to do with compassion to which God is not bound and which we ourselves have forfeited. But with regard to this mercy, we need never to be in doubt, because God has obligated Himself to it.
Actually one can best render the content of this word by “covenant faithfulness.” And — isn’t it true? — in a covenant one always knows where one stands: If the element of faithfulness remains firm, one can count on the mercy! Scholars have demonstrated this sense of “mercy” in Scripture. To give one quotation: “God’s mercy is based on the covenant, whereby He freely takes upon Himself obligations toward His people, so that the pious can call upon God’s mercy; in this connection one must keep in view that it is always the mercy that God has promised, on which one thus cannot make a claim but which one can still expect. The idea of mercy and of covenant belong together!”
Naturally I do not mean to deal with the term “covenant” here. But I do believe that there is so much doubt about God’s grace because many no longer (want to) know about the covenant. We would hope in the mercy of God if only we believed in His holy covenant! But many speak and think about the mercy of God as a lottery: you only have a chance! The only way we can expect improvement here is if we no longer isolate the one from the other, but allow everything — and thus also the mercy of God — to stand in the framework of the covenant in which Scripture places it. — Benne Holwerda, “’According to His Mercy Reborn’ (1 Peter 1:3b),” De wijsheid die behoudt (my translation and slight paraphrase).
RELATIONSHIPS IN THE LIGHT OF THE CROSS VI:
BLESS AND BE BLESSED
1 Peter 3:8-12
(May 22, 2005, Sermon Notes)
Peter has been calling us to live such good lives that the unbelievers around us join us in praising God. That good lifestyle involves submission to those in authority and honouring others. After giving several examples, Peter now calls all of us to bless others so that we receive God’s blessing.
RENDERING BLESSING TO OTHERS (3:8-9a)
Peter has told us that we are dead to sins and alive to righteousness (2:24) and that new life becomes visible in our relationships with each other. We are to be “of one mind.” That doesn’t mean that we all have the same tastes or opinions, even on doctrinal matters. But it does mean that we are united in trusting Christ, living by God’s word, and following Jesus’ footsteps, especially when it comes to humbling ourselves to serve others.
Our world is characterized by division, but Jesus has formed us into His own special people and He gives us unity. Because we are one, we must have compassion for one another and be tenderhearted. Because we are one family, we must “love as brothers” (see John 13:35).
Peter isn’t saying that we should be busybodies (4:15), always in each other’s business, but he is saying that we should sympathize with each other and do what we can to meet each other’s needs.
Doing so also requires courtesy, the kind of friendliness which puts others ahead of ourselves and treating them with honour.
That’s hard work. We’re afraid we’ll get hurt. But that is what Jesus did for us. And in showing us love, He was hurt. But He died so that now we might live a life modeled after His own, even when it hurts.
Even when people reject our love, Peter points us to Jesus’ command (Luke 6) to love our enemies, to return good for evil, to bless those who curse us. Christ calls us to break the spiral of hostility with love.
RECEIVING BLESSING FROM GOD (3:10-12)
Why should we bless others who curse us? Because only in this way will we inherit God’s blessing. You can’t earn that blessing; it’s a gift you inherit. But you receive that inheritance only on this path: If you want to be blessed, you must be a blessing.
What motivates our love isn’t primarily a sense of duty or even a sense of gratitude to God. It’s hope. It’s our anticipation of God’s reward. That’s what Psalm 34:12-16 teaches us. Those who want a good life must turn our mouths â€” and our lives â€” from evil, do good, and pursue peace.
Those who live that way receive God’s blessing, the final inheritance He promised and good days right now. Peter isn’t saying we’ll never suffer. But even in our suffering we will have the Lord’s eyes on us and His ears will be open to hear our prayers and His face against our enemies.
RELATIONSHIPS IN THE LIGHT OF THE CROSS V:
THE CALLING OF HUSBANDS
1 Peter 3:7
(May 1, 2005, Sermon Notes)
It’s easy to overlook what Peter says in 1 Peter 3:7, both because it’s only a few lines long and because when we read it we focus primarily on the phrase “weaker vessel” and risk missing Peter’s point. Peter is applying the good news that Jesus has set us free from sin to live for righteousness and that new life must take shape in the way we treat our wives.
THE HONOUR HUSBANDS MUST RENDER
Peter has told all of us to submit to “every human creature” (2:13), following in Jesus’ footsteps (2:21ff.). Wives, like Christ, are to submit. But husbands, like Christ (“likewise”), are also to submit, though their submission takes a somewhat different form.
Husbands are to live with their wives “according to knowledge,” which is not merely knowledge of the gospel but especially knowledge of the wife. Husbands are to get to know their wives thoroughly, and a lot of the problems men have in their relationship with their wives comes from a failure to get to get to know them. It takes time to develop that knowledge and selfishness makes us resent that investment of time. But Christ died to free us from such selfish desires.
He freed us also to honour our wives. True honour is more than respect; it’s regarding and treating your wife as more important than yourself. That kind of honour never stays hidden in the heart. It comes to expression in your actions: remembering important dates, asking her opinion, showing her courtesy, praising her to others.
Both husbands and wives are jars (“vessels”), but the wife is the weaker one (physically and in terms of authority in the home) — and that’s why she is to be honoured. That weakness isn’t a flaw and men must not take advantage of it. Rather, they are to care for their wives and honour them, protecting them and backing them up in confrontations, recognizing that they are both heirs of the gift of life (1:4, 9).
THE WARNING HUSBANDS MUST RECEIVE
Peter says that husbands must treat their wives with honour “that your prayers may not be hindered.” Your relationship with your wife can’t be separated from your relationship with your Father. If you won’t honour her, He won’t listen to you (see Mal. 2:13-15; Isa. 1:15; 59:1-2; 1 Pet. 3:12).
How can you live without prayer? How can you reach the inheritance God has for His people if you can’t call on God as your Father? If you want God’s blessing, believe the gospel and let it change your life. Jesus died so that, having died to selfishness, you can live for righteousness in your home.
Because you value your relationship with God, value your relationship with your wife. If you want God to hear you, then honour your wife, get to know her, and live considerately with her.
In 1 Peter 3:7, Peter tells husbands that they must honour their wives and live with them “according to knowledge,” so that their prayers “may not be hindered.” What he is saying is in keeping with other passages of Scripture: a person’s sins may keep God from hearing his prayers (Mal. 2:13-15; Isa. 1:15; 59:1-2; 1 Pet. 3:12). If you don’t honour your wife, God won’t listen to you.
How dangerous is failing to live considerately with your wife, giving her honour? It’s a matter of life and death. John Calvin wants us to take that warning seriously: “We are more than insane, if we knowingly and wilfully close up the way to God’s presence by prayer, since this is the only refuge of our salvation.”
Wayne Grudem adds:
So concerned is God that Christian husbands live in an understanding and loving way with their wives, that he “interrupts” his relationship with them when they are not doing so. No Christian husband should presume to think that any spiritual good will be accomplished by his life without an effective ministry of prayer. And no husband may expect an effective prayer life unless he lives with his wife “in an understanding way, bestowing honour” on her. To take the time to develop and maintain a good marriage is God’s will; it is serving God; it is a spiritual activity pleasing in his sight.
RELATIONSHIPS IN THE LIGHT OF THE CROSS IV:
DAUGHTERS OF SARAH
1 Peter 3:1-6
(April 24, 2005, Sermon Notes)
Both feminism and chauvinism can keep us from understanding and obeying God’s word in 1 Peter 3:1-6, and we have to work hard to listen to what Peter is saying. He’s applying the gospel to our relationships at home. Christ has set us free from sinful desires to live for righteousness and that freedom gives wives a special calling
SUBMISSION AS EVANGELISM (3:1-2)
Peter has told the whole church to live such good lives among the pagans that the pagans will end up glorifying God (2:11-12). Submission is part of that evangelistic lifestyle, not only for wives but for all of us.
Peter doesn’t say that women are to submit because they are of lower value. Rather, we are all to submit to those in authority over us and marriage involves an authority structure. God appoints husbands to be the heads of their wives (Eph. 5) and He calls wives to submit from the heart as Sarah did when she called Abraham her “master” (Gen. 18:12).
At the same time, wives are to submit only to their own husbands, not to their dads or to anyone else’s husband. Women in general are not called to submit to men in general; wives are to submit to their own husbands.
But what if your husband isn’t godly? Peter says that your calling doesn’t change. God wants to heal your marriage and He does so through your submission.
He doesn’t allow you to nag your husband about believing the gospel. Instead, He calls you to show your husband the liberating power of the gospel without words by submitting to him, being chaste, and fearing God. If your husband won’t hear the gospel, let him see it in your life.
SUBMISSION AS BEAUTIFICATION (3:3-6)
This sort of submission, Peter says, is beautiful. Peter tells wives not to let their beautification be merely external. People sometimes take Peter to be forbidding women from having fancy hairstyles or wearing jewelry, nice clothes, and, by extension, makeup. But in spite of the way some translations render this verse, Peter doesn’t talk about “fine clothes”; he simply talks about “clothes.” If he’s forbidding women to wear jewelry, then he’s also forbidding them to wear clothes!
Besides, from other passages in the Bible (e.g., Ezek. 16), we know that God doesn’t disapprove of external adornment. But Peter doesn’t want wives to reduce their beautification to these things. There’s nothing wrong with external adornment, but it cannot be the source of a woman’s beauty. There’s nothing wrong with physical beauty, but without godliness it’s only skin-deep (see Prov. 11:22).
Lasting beauty comes from a heart that fears God which produces a spirit that is gentle (not itching for a fight) and quiet (peaceful), neither of which, by the way, is an exclusively feminine trait.
To get that kind of beautification, you have to go to the beauty school of the daughters of Sarah and imitate the holy women â€” the godly women in the past â€” who trusted in God and submitted to their husbands. If you follow their example and aren’t scared away from doing good, you’ll be a daughter of Sarah. God rewards Sarah’s daughters with imperishable beauty and they share in the imperishable inheritance He promises the faithful (1 Pet. 1:4).
1 Peter 3:3 is sometimes taken as forbidding Christian women to have fancy hairstyles or to wear jewelry, fine clothes, or (by extension) even makeup. But a proper translation of the text ought to dispel that notion.
Many versions of the Bible supply a word before the word for clothing. So, for example, the NKJV has Peter talking about “fine apparel.” The RSV and the NIV are similar. The word “fine” doesn’t appear in the original Greek, however. There is, in fact, no adjective modifying the word “clothing.”
What Peter says here is literally this: “Let your adornment not be external, consisting in braiding of hair and wearing of gold and putting on of clothes.” As Wayne Grudem says,
It is incorrect, therefore, to use this text to prohibit women from braiding their hair or wearing gold jewelry, for by the same reasoning one would have to prohibit “putting on of clothing.”
Put another way, if Peter is banning gold jewelry, he’s also banning clothes.
RELATIONSHIPS IN THE LIGHT OF THE CROSS III:
WALKING IN CHRIST’S STEPS
1 Peter 2:21-25
(April 17, 2005, Sermon Notes)
In our text, Peter focuses on an aspect of our vocation as Christians, on our calling to do good even when it means suffering for it. Suffering for Christ’s sake and suffering in Christian style are parts of our calling as Christians.
CHRIST’S SUFFERING EXEMPLIFIES GODLY SUFFERING (2:21-23)
Peter has been calling us to submit. Slaves are to submit even to harsh masters. But the calling to submit in spite of suffering isn’t limited to slaves. Peter broadens his focus here and speaks to all of us.
We might think that as God’s chosen people we shouldn’t have to suffer, but Peter tells us that we were called to follow in Christ’s steps. Christ is the pattern that we are to imitate. In some ways, Jesus’ calling is unique; we aren’t to imitate everything Jesus did. But we are to imitate Him in the way He suffered. His footsteps lead us down the way of the cross and His style sets the pattern for our suffering.
Jesus suffered innocently (v. 22; see Isa. 53:9). We have all sinned, but He hadn’t and yet He suffered. His innocence didn’t excuse Him from suffering nor did it excuse lashing out at His oppressors (v. 23; Isa. 53:7).
But Jesus wasn’t a Stoic, simply putting up with suffering. He didn’t act as if nothing was happening. Instead, He cried out to God and committed Himself to God as the just Judge. He trusted that God would vindicate Him even if everyone else condemned Him. That is the path we must follow.
CHRIST’S SUFFERING ENABLES GODLY LIVING (2:24-25)
But Christ does not merely give us an example to follow. He also sets us free so that we can (and do) follow Him. Left to ourselves, we would always be self-seeking, sinful in our reactions to suffering. But Christ gives us a new life.
He bore our sins in His body on the tree. We were going astray, but He became our representative, like a sacrificial lamb, bearing our sins (Isa. 53:4-7). And His goal was that, “having died to sins, we might live for righteousness.” Because He died for us, we are no longer under the power of sin. We have died to sin and now we live for righteousness. In Him, we have the power to obey (see Rom. 6).
Christ’s suffering has begun a healing process in your life (Isa. 53:5). Now we are no longer straying; we have returned to “the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls,” so that instead of wandering away, we follow Him, even if doing so involves suffering for His sake.
We must follow Christ: that’s our calling. We can follow Him: that’s our comfort. He sets the example and He sets us free to follow in His steps.
RELATIONSHIPS IN THE LIGHT OF THE CROSS II:
GOD’S SERVANTS AND HUMAN MASTERS
1 Peter 2:18-20
(April 10, 2005, Sermon Notes)
It’s tempting to skip a passage like this one. Slavery was common in Peter’s day, but it isn’t in ours. We might think these verses aren’t relevant to us, but Paul tells us that all Scripture is profitable (2 Tim. 3:16) and that includes 1 Peter 2:18-20. Peter is applying the gospel here, teaching to live out our relationships in the light of the cross, as people who have been redeemed, who have died to sins in order to live for righteousness. With that goal in mind, he tells us that God calls His servants to submit to their earthly masters.
SUBMISSION WITHOUT REGARD FOR THE MASTER’S CONDUCT (2:18)
Peter has told the whole church to “submitÂ … to every human creature for the Lord’s sake” (2:13). We are all to submit to our rulers (2:13-17). Now Peter speaks directly to the slaves in the church and tells them to submit to their masters with all fear (a term which, in Peter’s letters, normally refers to fear of God, though it may also imply reverence for the master), not only if the master is good and considerate but also if he is harsh or crooked. Slaves are to submit, Peter says, even to masters who beat them without cause.
What are we supposed to do with a summons like this one? Sometimes people say that what the Bible say to slaves we can apply to employees, but that isn’t true. Employees have options slaves don’t have. They can quit. If the boss beats them, they can file charges. Employees aren’t locked in the way slaves are.
In applying this passage, it helps to distinguish between saying that the Bible is time-conditioned and saying that it is time-bound. The Bible is indeed time-conditioned: Peter is writing to people in a particular situation. But what he says is not bound to that situation. Even in our different circumstances, what he is saying still applies to us.
In spite of the differences between slaves and employees, employees can still learn from this passage that, so long as they are working for a particular boss, they are to submit to him, whether they like him or not. Badmouthing him isn’t an option.
But there are other situations which are even closer to the original, situations where people are locked in in ways that employees aren’t. Students need to submit to unfair teachers, children are to submit to their parents even when the parents aren’t being just, and church members are to treat their elders with respect instead of rebelling even when those elders are wrong.
The conduct of those in authority over us doesn’t take away from our calling toward them. We are to submit whether they are cruel or kind, crooked or fair, considerate or harsh.
SUBMISSION WITH REGARD FOR GOD’S COMMENDATION (2:19-20)
Peter is giving us a hard calling. The biggest problem we have with this passage isn’t that we don’t understand it; it’s that we don’t like it. The only way to carry out this calling is by having the right focus â€” not on ourselves and our suffering, not on our masters and their behaviour, but on God.
Peter tells slaves (and all of us) that it is “commendable” before God if we endure unjust suffering because we are conscious of God. In the midst of our suffering, we are to stay focused on God’s plans and purposes, on what God calls us to do, on the rewards He promises us. We are to entrust ourselves to God as the just Judge who will punish harsh masters (2:21ff.).
In Christ, God has set us free from our old evil desires which war against our souls (2:10). He’s redeemed us from the empty way of life we inherited from our forefathers and the world around. He’s rescued us from putting ourselves first so that we can put Him and others ahead of ourselves. Jesus bore our sins in His body on the tree so that we could die to sin and live to righteousness.
We endure suffering by being conscious of God, of what He has done and what He will do for us. But sometimes we endure suffering because we are conscious of God. Just as Joseph’s awareness of God led to his being accused of rape and thrown into jail, so our desire to serve God may lead to suffering. But as Yahweh was with Joseph, He will be with us, too â€” and that awareness is the key to enduring suffering.
Our endurance is “commendable” (2:20) to God. No one else may appreciate our behaviour. Our friends may think we’ve become doormats. People in authority may take advantage of our submission. But God values our submission and in the end only His judgment matters. We can keep doing what’s right knowing that if we suffer for it and endure, He approves that endurance. He will reward us and He will punish those who oppress us.
God has set us free from our evil desires so that we can serve Him. He calls us as His free servants to submit to human masters and to submit impartially â€” to the kind and the cruel â€” because we’re focused on Him and we’re waiting patiently for Him to say “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
RELATIONSHIPS IN THE LIGHT OF THE CROSS I:
LIVING UNDER AUTHORITY
1 Peter 2:13-17
(April 3, 2005, Sermon Notes)
In this section of his letter, Peter calls us to live in the light of Jesus’ death (1 Pet. 2:21-25). We are God’s chosen people and our lifestyle must reflect who we are so that the Gentiles, too, may glorify God because of us. That new lifestyle involves new ways of relating to those in authority over us.
GOOD CITIZENS (2:13-15)
The basic rule Peter gives for Christian interaction with civil magistrates is this: “Submit.” In fact, Peter wants us to submit to every human creature (which is probably the meaning of the Greek phrase translated “every ordinance of men” in the NKJV).
We don’t submit to “the civil government”; we submit to rulers, to human beings who are creatures just as we are, creatures who have limited knowledge and make mistakes, just as we do. The basic rule for Christian relationships is that we are to submit to other human creatures, and especially to those whom God has set over us.
We are to do so “for the Lord’s sake.” Jesus is the Lord. He rules over the other lords. In fact, He appoints them to office as His servants (Rom. 13). When we honour them, we are honouring Him. There are limits to the authority of these other rulers (e.g., Acts 5:29), but those limits do not take away from our basic calling to submit.
The Lord appoints rulers to punish evildoers and praise those who do good (v.14). Peter wants us to work alongside rulers toward these goals. When we do good consistently, we muzzle our critics (v. 15) and even draw unbelievers to faith so that they join us in glorifying God (vv. 11-12).
GOD’S SERVANTS (2:16-17)
Peter tells us to live “as free men,” even if we are slaves (as in 2:18ff.). We have been redeemed (1:18), freed from the slavery of the old way of life we inherited from Adam. But true freedom is a license to live as we please; it is a license to live as God pleases. We are to live as free men who are God’s servants, freed from sin to live for righteousness (2:24).
When we submit to others, we are not relinquishing our freedom, therefore. We are exercising our freedom â€” freedom from selfishness, freedom to serve God and to serve others.
The world tells us to put ourselves first, but the Lord has freed to honour other people, whether they are Christians or not. But beyond that common respect for everyone, there must also be a special love for “the brotherhood,” the church of Christ.
Peter adds that we are to fear God and honour the king â€” in that order. God has the ultimate authority and deserves the highest reverence. We must honour the king and all our rulers, but we trust and fear God alone.